New LLA series: REVOLUTION! Key moments in socialist history 1381-1914

You can find the videos of all of our previous sessions here on Youtube, including all 12 sessions of our excellent series ‘Learning Labour’s History’.

We now need your help in planning the next stage of our education programme – we are looking for speakers and volunteers who might be interested in leading various online discussions. We are currently planning four different strands:

  1. A series on ‘Revolution! Key moments in socialist history 1381-1914’
  2. A series on ‘Revolution and Counter-revolution in the Twentieth Century’
  3. A series on ‘Basic Marxist concepts’
  4. An online Book and Film Club

We would like to broaden our list of speakers and so we are asking for comrades who could lead a discussion on any of the listed topics to get in touch with us by emailing – ideally please do so before 20 September. We are also looking for comrades who might be interested in helping to run the Book and Film Club.

“REVOLUTION! Key moments in socialist history 1381-1914”

We are uploading reading material as we go along.

Thursday 24 September
‘When Adam delved and Eve span…’ Peasant wars and radical movements 1381-1535. The video is available here

  • Lineages of the Absolutist State– P. Anderson. An historical survey of the wider background of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. It’s written from a New Left Marxist position, but has a good bibliography and raises important issues on the nature of feudalism
  • Revelation and Revolution: Basic Writings of Thomas Müntzer- M. G. Baylor (ed.) Does what it says on the tin-a good selection of primary sources and some helpful contextual information.
  • Rebels and their Causes– M. Cornforth (ed.) Essays by a variety of Marxist historians on primitive rebels and revolutionaries. Includes two good essays by Rodney Hilton and Christopher Hill
  • The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381-R. B Dobson (ed.) A good introduction and a comprehensive selection of primary sources.
  • The Peasant War in Germany F. Engels. Written in 1850, this is one of the first attempts to analyse this movement from a Mraxistprespective.
  • Kill All the Gentlemen: Class Struggle and Change in the English countryside-M. Empson. A survey of rural movements and the nature of the challenge they presented to the ruling class.
  • From feudalism to capitalism -C. Harman. A survey of the debate amongst Marxists about this period and the relationship between economic and social change, and these emerging political movements.
  • Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381-R.H. Hilton. A stimulating account about medieval peasant movements and the nature of their ideologies.
  • Communism in Central Europe in the time of the Reformation -K. Kautsky. Another classic Marxist account of these movements.
  • Frankenhausen 1525- D. MillerAlthough this account focusses on the final battle of the German Peasant War, it also provides a good outline of the main events and demands of this movement.
  • The German Peasants’ War – T. Scott and B. Scribner (eds.) A collection of primary sources along with some useful background essays.

Thursday 1 October
The Levellers and the Diggers in the English revolution 1640-1660 – video here

This is a small selection of books on these particular movements. A wider reading list on the English Revolution will be available later in conjunction with a series of educational sessions on The English Revolution 1640-1688.

  • Cromwell and Communism: Socialism and Democracy in the Great English Revolution -E. Bernstein. This is an 1895 classical Marxist account of these radical movements which was one of the first attempts to assess the revolutionary nature of the Diggers and Levellers. It was influential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but is now largely forgotten, perhaps because of Bernstein’s revisionism.
  • The Good Old Cause: The English Revolution of 1640-1660, its Causes, Courses and Consequence-E. Dell and C. Hill (eds.) A collection of primary material which covers the whole revolutionary period.
  • Brave community: The Digger Movement in the English Revolution-J.Gurney .This is a case study of the origins of the Digger movement through a local case study .It also has some interesting assessments of the leading Digger, Gerard Winstanley and the nature of his utopian communism.
  • The World Turned Upside Down– C. Hill. Hill rescues a myriad of radical political and religious groups from the enormous condescension of posterity and shows the English Revolution produced a flowering of revolutionary ideas that challenged the status quo.
  • The Century of Revolution 1603-1714-C. Hill. An introduction to the main political, economic, social and ideological developments during this revolutionary period.
  • The English People and the English Revolution-B. Manning. This book looks at popular politics and the role of movements from below in driving forward the English Revolution at key turning points and the types off political ideas and organizational forms that developed in this period.
  • The Far Left in the English Revolution-B. Manning. Although Manning focuses on the Diggers and other utopians the revolutionary implications of the Leveller movement and its democratic ideas are not ignored in this very readable account.
  • The Leveller Revolution: Radical Political Organization in England, 1640-1650– J. Rees The most recent account of this movement, stressing the importance of its forms of political organization and wider significance, both during the revolutionary period and in the movements that followed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
  • The Levellers: The Putney Debates-G. Robertson. An account (along with supporting primary sources) of some key debates on political democracy, Leveller ideas and the response of the Army leadership.

Thursday 8 October
Revolution from below: the radical American revolutionary tradition 1760-1815

  • The American Revolution- C. Bonwick.  Smart and concise history of the revolutionary period into the Age of Napoleon, but surprisingly cursory on the question of race and slavery.  An object lesson in how US historiography has changed in the last thirty years or so.
  • Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, – P. Finkelman.  Tough-minded examination of what, thanks to the American Revolution, would come to be known as “the peculiar institution.”  Prime focus is on the 1780s and after.
  • The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy– D. Lazare My own sceptical take on the founding period and its ambiguous legacy.
  • The British Atlantic Empire before the American Revolution – P. Marshall and G. Williams, (eds).  An essay collection examining the North Atlantic political and economic culture of the late eighteenth century.
  • The Age of the Democratic Revolution, vols. 1 and 2 – R.R. Palmer Classic survey ranging from the aristocratic reaction of the 1770s and 80s to the Napoleonic Period.  Best known as the author of Twelve Who Ruled (1941), Palmer was close to the French CP historian Georges Lefebvre, and the Marxist influence shows.  Must reading for any internationalist.

Thursday 15 October
‘Real equality or death…’ Babeuf, the Conspiracy of Equals and the French Revolution 1789-1799

Thursday 22 October
The first world revolution: the United Irishmen, the Black Jacobins, Bolivar’s wars of liberation, and the international impact of the French Revolution 1791-1830

Thursday 29 October
The Springtime of the Peoples? The 1848 Revolution

Thursday 5 November
Chartism-the world’s first working class party 1838-57

Thursday 12 November
‘Bourgeois and proletarians’: socialist ideas 1840-1867

Thursday 19 November
The second American revolution: the Civil War and the struggle over slavery 1850-1875

Thursday 26 November
‘Workers of the world unite!’ The Frist International 1864-1876

Thursday 3 December
The first workers’ government -the Paris Commune 1871

Thursday 10 December
Socialism in the age of imperialism: the Second International 1889-1914

Thursday 17 December
Conclusion: Learning from the past?

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